Dave Hendricks | The Monitor Follow @dmhj
McALLEN — The National Collegiate Athletic Association rejected McAllen’s bid for the Palm Bowl on Tuesday afternoon, but the City Commission and school board will spend $5 million overhauling Veterans Memorial Stadium anyway.
At 3:23 p.m. Tuesday — less than 24 hours after the City Commission and school board approved the stadium renovation deal — the NCAA notified McAllen “the committee recommended other finalists as potential hosts for the championship.”
Regardless, the overhaul will move forward, said City Commissioner Trey Pebley. Upgrading the nearly 13,500-seat stadium will allow McAllen to host exhibition soccer matches, football games, concerts and other events.
“The Palm Bowl was the impetus,” Pebley said. “And we started looking at what else the stadium could be used for.”
Renovating the stadium will not require any new taxes. The City Commission promised $3 million from McAllen’s sales tax and the school board pledged $2 million from property taxes.
“And I think the $3 million was the bare minimum to get where we needed to be to host different events,” Pebley said. “The other $2 million that the school district is putting in will shine it up and make it more presentable.”
The project would include overhauling the stadium’s press box, upgrading locker rooms and installing an elevator to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Documents provided to the City Commission estimated $1 million would cover planning costs, including architectural fees, and the remaining $4 million would fund construction.
“We have to make it to where the public sees that there’s $5 million here,” said Mike Barrera, assistant superintendent for district operations.
Construction would take place during the off-season to avoid disrupting football and other high school sports, Barrera said, adding that work may pause and restart to fit the district’s schedule.
The badly needed renovation wouldn’t have been possible without the City Commission’s help, said board President Debbie Crane Aliseda. Unlike many neighboring school districts, McAllen’s population isn’t growing rapidly and district property tax revenue remains largely stable. Finding money for new projects and renovations remains challenging.
“It’s needed it for many, many years,” Crane Aliseda said. “It’s the best real estate we have for MISD and it just sits there unused.”
After recouping their initial investments, the city and school district will split profit from stadium events. Pebley said preliminary discussions have included exhibition football games between Mexican football powerhouse Monterrey Tech and American teams.
Both Pebley and Crane Aliseda said they hope the city-school district partnership grows.
“I think there are more opportunities for us to do that with the school district and with other elected bodies in the region,” Pebley said. “When we’re all on the same page and pulling in the same direction, we can get a lot done for everybody in the region.”
McAllen recently approved a partnership with Mission to widen Taylor Road. Other potential projects include McAllen working with the local school district and possibly Edinburg on a regional swimming pool complex.
“Maybe we can get past the Friday night lights mentality by hosting a football game,” Pebley said.